4. Use Your Imagination

If you do not have a health condition but you are worried that you will develop one if you don’t make some lifestyle changes to lose weight, try the following:

  1. Imagine that you are, right now, at the weight that you believe will be healthier.
  2. Work out a plan (with a health professional if desired) of the kinds of lifestyle changes you think you might be able to sustain to remain healthy at that weight.
  3. Implement that plan, right now, at your current weight.

Be sure your plan does not include any type of externally determined caloric intake or food restriction, since these have been proven not to work for most people. Steps 5-8 below refer to the kinds of changes that are most likely to help prevent and ameliorate these so-called “weight-related” health conditions. They will also help your body to settle around its natural (genetically programmed) healthy weight

5. Consider Moving Your Body

If you are relatively sedentary, consider finding ways to move your body that feel good to you.

Te most up to date information on exercise is encouraging, especially for people who have been sedentary and have had difficulty trying to live up to the seemingly ever-changing, complicated and demanding exercise recommendations from the government and health establishment.

For the vast majority of people, fitness is a much more important indicator of health than fatness:

  1. The greatest gains in health-related fitness are achieved when people go from being sedentary to getting even small amounts of physical activity.
  2. Physical activity does not have to be done all at once to achieve significant health benefits — three 10-minute periods of exercise are as good as one 30-minute period.
  3. All kinds of movement count, including walking, gardening, dancing, sports and running after your kids.

6. Declare Your Independence

Don’t let anyone (that’s right – anyone!) tell you how to eat, what to eat or how much to eat to lose weight. We all have wonderful, intricate mechanisms to help us to know how much to eat to maintain a healthy weight. No set of rules, guidelines or regulations experts can propose comes close to the precision of the complex interactions among hunger, appetite and satiety that naturally help us regulate our food intake and our weight if we pay attention to them. Ignoring these internal signals by following endless sets of external ones (Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, The Food Pyramid, etc.) is likely to result in more rather than less disordered eating. A growing body of research suggests that adults and children who diet are more likely to gain extra weight as they get older than those who don’t.

7. Listen to Your Internal Signals

Learn to eat according to your internal signals; appetite, hunger and satiety. By paying attention to these signals, you can avoid having to pay someone else to tell you what and how much to eat.

NOTE: For some people, eating can become a stand-in for other hungers that are not being satisfied. These may be related to a search for life balance, connection or meaning and purpose. Sometimes, there may also be deep-seated struggles with depression, anxiety and trauma that get played out with food. It is critical that these underlying issues be addressed. It is even more critical that no matter how much of a problem food and weight have become for an individual, with few exceptions, external food restriction will almost certainly cause more harm than good.

8. Consider Dr. Robison’s Simplified Dietary Guidelines

Te original Four Food Groups were designed to help us to get the nutrition we need to grow and thrive. Over the years The Dietary Guidelines for Americans have become too complex, too prescriptive and too focused on disease prevention and weight control.

Some people may have a medical condition that requires them to eat or not eat particular foods. But, for most people, the following guidelines can go a long way towards providing a varied, nutritious diet while at the same time minimizing the constant worry about everything we put into our mouths — a seemingly ever-present stressor that is decidedly unhealthy! Here they are:

  1. Enjoy Your Food
  2. Eat A Wide Variety of Food
  3. Pay Attention to Internal Signals Whenever You Can
  4. Share Your Food With Someone Who Is Needy – Gratitude is Deeply Nourishing!

Bon Appetite!!

9. Take Notice of What Really Matters

Notice any changes that occur over time with this approach – Ask yourself:

  1. What health-related changes have I seen? physiologically/psychologically
  2. Do I feel differently about food?
  3. Do I feel differently about myself?
  4. Am I spending less time and energy worrying about my weight and what I am eating?

10. Celebrate

That’s Right! Congratulate yourself! If you follow these suggestions, it is very likely that you will:

  1. End your time on the frustrating dieting roller coaster.
  2. Increase your self esteem and body image.
  3. Take charge of your eating by paying attention to your body instead of paying someone else to tell you what to do.
  4. Help your body settle near the weight it is genetically programmed to achieve.
  5. Open up significant amounts of time, energy and money that you used to spend worrying about your weight and food.
  6. Ameliorate or normalize any of the so-called weight-related health conditions you may have had whether or not you experience any change in weight.

Final Thoughts

Because the concepts that thin equals healthy and weight loss equals better health are so deeply ingrained into the fabric of our culture, after examining this different approach people will often still ask this final question: If I do all of this will I lose weight? The answer to this question goes straight to the heart of the difference between the Health-Centered and Weight-Centered Approaches.

The answer is that, if people follow the suggestions outlined
here, there are three and only three possibilities:

  1. They will lose weight
  2. They will gain weight
  3. Their weight will not change

What is wonderful about this answer, unlike almost any other answer related to this topic, is that it is undeniably scientific and unarguably true. If people are above their natural weight, they may lose some weight. If people are below their natural weight, they may gain. If people are close to their natural weight, they may stay the same. Which one of these outcomes will occur is often not predictable. What is predictable is that people will end up healthier and much less concerned about their weight and their health.

This piece was originally published in the Wellness Council of America Special Report, 2009. It is reprinted here with permission.